Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2020 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.
Next up we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor Laura Brown …
After spending her childhood coming up with new episodes to her favorite sitcoms instead of sleeping, Laura Brown decided to try her hand at writing and never looked back. A hopeless romantic, she married her high school sweetheart. They live in Massachusetts with their two cats and kid. Laura’s been hard of hearing her entire life but didn’t start learning ASL until college, when her disability morphed from an inconvenience to a positive part of her identity. At home the closed captioning is always on, lights flash with the doorbell, and hearing aids are sometimes optional.
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Laura’s recent release…
This Passover is starting to feel like the ten plagues might be coming back to haunt them before the weekend is over…one hilarious misstep after the next.
Gaby Fineberg just wants to get through Passover Seder without her “well meaning” family playing matchmaker. She needs a date, just for one simple meal—that includes singing, the history of her forefathers, and not one bit of yeast. The hot guy at her gym would be perfect. He probably hates bread, anyway, with a body like that. But when she finally works up the nerve to ask him…he doesn’t hear a word she said.
Levi Miller is deaf and happily single. Initially, he doesn’t know why this beautiful woman is talking to him, but it’s clear she needs help—and suddenly so does he. In a very complicated situation, Levi finds a simple solution. Gaby will pretend to be his new girlfriend to bail him out, and he’ll return the favor. But he didn’t bargain for a family dinner quite like this one…
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Laura’s critique . . .
I am currently seeking representation for my 82,000-word humorous commercial novel [I’m not confident this is the right genre and encourage you to research this further], TITLE. Although the story is set in the world of modern hardball politics, its underlying themes of identity and loss are universal. [Best to show this in your blurb portion, rather than tell it.] I am excited about submitting to you because of your interest in XXX.
Pete O’Pake is a young state legislator who lost his bid for re-election three weeks ago. His term in office will expire [expires, not will expire] at midnight tonight, November 30th, which also marks the end of the two-year legislative session. [I don’t think you need the mention of the legislative session ending, keep your focus on your plot] Before that deadline, Pete must cast a critical vote, deliver his farewell address, and make decisions about his future. If that weren’t enough, he must also deal with the intrusion of a beautiful stranger who needs his cooperation to meet her own deadline. Just a typical day in the life of an elected official. [I’m not getting any humor here, what makes this story funny?]
[Wait, that’s your entire blurb? This reads like the first set up. What’s your plot? What are Peter’s stakes? What happens if he doesn’t do… what exactly? Your query needs to present the concept of your novel. All I know is that it’s political and your MC is an exiting legislator. That’s not enough to hook a reader. I’d look into a two or three paragraph query that focuses on the blurb and the meat of the story, bring your voice in, your humor, and your stakes.]
TITLE is like ULYSSES (a day in the life) meets VEEP (craziness [Be careful of ableist language] behind the scenes), with a little HOUSE OF CARDS (political ruthlessness) thrown in for kicks. It is similar in both tone and insider knowledge to the recently published CAMPAIGN WIDOWS and HOPE NEVER DIES. [You need to be spending more time on your own story, than a long list of comparisons. Most comps are more X meets Y, with some brief explanation, not two long sentences.]
Like my protagonist, I, too, was a popular young state legislator. During my twenty years in politics and government, I have written and edited hundreds of policy reports, opinion pieces, press releases, and speeches, and have experienced the highs and lows of a career that, by its very nature, depends on the whims of others. My real passion, however, has always been writing fiction, which is something that I now have more time and energy on which to focus. [This is a nice bio section, shows why you are writing this book and what experiences you bring to the table.]
Per your guidelines, I am submitting XXX, attached below. I welcome the opportunity to send all or part of TITLE for your further review. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH
The usual ruckus on the floor of the state House of Representatives decreases by several dozen decibels when the Clerk calls my name a second time. “O’Pake?”
I just need to announce my vote and sit down, and then later give my farewell speech. Then I’m out of politics forever.
My continued non-response quiets the vast, crowded chamber further, drawing more attention to me and my vote – if that’s even possible given the rumors circulating all day throughout the Capitol about The Deal. [I’m not sure about being rooted enough into your MC or what’s going on, but I will admit I’m intrigued and easily kept reading.]
Don’t screw this up, Pete. I know I need to reveal my decision, “aye” or “nay.” I can’t hesitate or punt; there’s no opportunity for an explanation or a wisecrack. The House Clerk is waiting to record my vote for the official tally. Also waiting in stunned silence are hundreds of friends, foes, and others: fellow legislators, staffers, lobbyists, advocates, reporters, and special guests. That last category includes my bloody-awful successor, the Man in Black. Not Johnny Cash, to whom I would gladly cede the Seventy-Second District. [Here, first hint of humor.] Donnie Three Sticks. [Is this explained more? I’m hoping it is. I also want to know why he’s delaying, I feel like I’m missing something big and if that’s coming in the next few pages? Great, that can work, but if it’s not for a long time further, consider leaving a few crumbs. Readers need something to grasp onto in the beginning, to know the why or at least a clue. The balance of questions and answers tends to be a tricky one.]
Is it me, or is it super hot in here? I can’t breathe. Omigod! What am I going to do? What did Dad say? What was Rule Zero? “You can breathe if you can speak.” [This feels out of place. Rather than just words in your MC’s head, can you show this? He could be tugging on his tie, loosening his collar, practicing deep breathing. Show us his emotions here, we’re still trying to meet him.]
[Your first page isn’t bad, it certainly pulled me along, but after reading your query and your pages, I’m afraid I have very little understanding of what your book is about. I don’t know what journey your MC is about to take, I’m only getting a hint of the humor. What about this voting session changes your MC’s life?]